What To Serve With Tamales

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Tamales are a classic Mexican dish, known for their delicious flavors and unique texture. Whether you’re enjoying them as a main course or as a part of a larger spread, it’s important to pair tamales with the right side dishes to enhance their taste and create a well-rounded meal. In this article, we will explore a variety of options for what to serve with tamales, ranging from traditional Mexican sides to modern twists and fusion cuisine.

Understanding the Flavor Profile of Tamales

Tamales are made with masa, a dough made from corn that is typically filled with various ingredients such as meats, cheese, and vegetables. The flavor profile of tamales varies depending on the filling and the accompanying sauces or salsas. It is important to consider both the savory and sweet aspects of tamales when choosing the right side dishes.

The Savory Side of Tamales

When it comes to savory side dishes, options are plentiful. One classic choice is to serve tamales with a side of Spanish rice. The tomato-based rice with its aromatic flavors complements the savory nature of the tamales perfectly. The combination of the fluffy rice and the tender tamales creates a satisfying and comforting meal.

Another traditional option is to serve tamales with a side of refried beans, whether they are plain or seasoned with spices and herbs. The smooth texture and earthy flavors of the beans create a satisfying contrast to the soft and rich tamales. The combination of the creamy beans and the flavorful tamales is a match made in culinary heaven.

If you’re looking for something lighter, a refreshing salad made with crisp lettuce, chopped tomatoes, and tangy lime dressing can add a burst of freshness to your tamales. The vibrant colors and zesty flavors of the salad can complement the richness of the tamales, creating a well-balanced and satisfying meal.

Alternatively, you can prepare a simple slaw using shredded cabbage, carrots, and a creamy dressing. The crunchiness of the vegetables and the acidity of the dressing can balance the richness of the tamales. The combination of the creamy slaw and the flavorful tamales creates a textural and flavor contrast that is sure to please your taste buds.

The Sweet Side of Tamales

For those who prefer a touch of sweetness to complement their tamales, there are several options to consider. One classic choice is to serve tamales with a drizzle of warm chocolate sauce or a sprinkle of powdered sugar. The combination of the sweetened tamales with the rich chocolate or the delicate sweetness of the powdered sugar creates a delightful contrast of flavors. The indulgent sweetness of the chocolate or the subtle sweetness of the powdered sugar can elevate the tamales to a whole new level of deliciousness.

Alternatively, you can serve tamales with a side of fresh fruit, particularly tropical fruits like pineapple or mangoes. The natural sweetness and juiciness of the fruits can provide a refreshing and light accompaniment to the tamales. The combination of the sweet and tangy fruits with the savory tamales creates a harmonious blend of flavors that is both satisfying and refreshing.

You could also serve them with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream to add a creamy and indulgent element. The creamy and smooth texture of the whipped cream or the cold and velvety texture of the ice cream can provide a luxurious and decadent experience when enjoyed with the warm and flavorful tamales.

Complementary Side Dishes for Tamales

While traditional Mexican sides are a great choice for pairing with tamales, there are also modern twists and fusion cuisine ideas that can take your tamale experience to the next level. Let’s explore some of these options below.

Vegetarian Sides for Tamales

For those who enjoy vegetarian tamales, roasted vegetables can be a delightful side dish. You can roast a variety of vegetables such as zucchini, bell peppers, and corn, and season them with spices like cumin and chili powder. The caramelized flavors of the roasted vegetables can complement the flavors of the tamales beautifully.

Imagine sinking your teeth into a perfectly roasted zucchini, its tender flesh bursting with smoky flavors. The sweetness of the bell peppers dances on your taste buds, while the charred edges add a delightful crunch. And let’s not forget about the corn, with its golden kernels bursting with sweetness and a hint of earthiness. These roasted vegetables provide a colorful and vibrant accompaniment to the tamales, adding depth and complexity to each bite.

Additionally, a fresh avocado salsa or guacamole can provide a creamy and tangy element to the meal. The smooth textures and vibrant flavors of the avocado can enhance the overall dining experience. Picture a bowl of creamy guacamole, made with perfectly ripe avocados, tangy lime juice, and a hint of garlic. The coolness of the avocado complements the warm and comforting tamales, creating a harmonious balance of flavors.

Meat-Based Sides for Tamales

If you’re enjoying meat-filled tamales, you can pair them with some grilled meats such as steak or chicken. The smoky and charred flavors from the grill can add depth and richness to the meal, enhancing the flavors of the tamales.

Imagine sinking your teeth into a perfectly grilled steak, its juicy and tender meat infused with smoky flavors. The caramelized crust on the outside adds a delightful crunch, while the pink center oozes with succulent juices. Or perhaps you prefer grilled chicken, with its crispy skin and moist flesh. The smoky flavors from the grill elevate the taste of the tamales, creating a mouthwatering combination that will leave you craving for more.

You can also serve the tamales with a side of tangy and spicy salsa verde or a chunky tomato salsa to complement the meaty goodness. Picture a spoonful of vibrant green salsa verde, made with tomatillos, jalapenos, and cilantro. The tanginess of the tomatillos and the heat from the jalapenos awaken your taste buds, while the fresh cilantro adds a burst of herbaceous flavor. Alternatively, a chunky tomato salsa, made with ripe tomatoes, onions, and fiery chili peppers, can provide a zesty and refreshing contrast to the richness of the meat-filled tamales.

Traditional Mexican Sides to Pair with Tamales

When it comes to traditional Mexican sides, few options are as iconic as beans and rice. A classic combination, serving tamales with a side of refried beans and Mexican rice is a popular choice. The hearty and comforting flavors of the beans and rice provide a familiar and satisfying accompaniment to the tamales.

But the world of Mexican cuisine offers a variety of other delicious sides that can elevate your tamale experience to new heights. Let’s explore some of these options:

One delightful side dish to consider is elote, also known as Mexican street corn. This mouthwatering treat features grilled corn on the cob slathered with a creamy mixture of mayonnaise, cotija cheese, lime juice, and chili powder. The combination of smoky, sweet, tangy, and spicy flavors will perfectly complement the rich and savory tamales.

If you’re looking for a lighter side, consider serving tamales with a refreshing avocado and tomato salad. Diced ripe avocados, juicy tomatoes, red onions, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice come together to create a vibrant and zesty salad that adds a burst of freshness to each bite of tamale.

For those who enjoy a bit of heat, a side of salsa verde can take your tamale feast to the next level. Made with tomatillos, jalapenos, onions, garlic, and cilantro, this tangy and spicy green salsa adds a zingy kick that complements the flavors of the tamales beautifully.

Another traditional option is to serve tamales with a side of nopales, which are cactus paddles. Nopales are often grilled or sautéed and can add a unique texture and flavor to the meal. Their slightly tart taste and crisp texture can provide a refreshing contrast to the soft and flavorful tamales.

And let’s not forget about the vibrant and versatile Mexican pickled vegetables known as escabeche. This tangy and slightly spicy medley of carrots, jalapenos, onions, and cauliflower adds a delightful crunch and a burst of flavor to any tamale feast. The acidity of the pickled vegetables helps cut through the richness of the tamales, creating a harmonious balance of tastes.

So, whether you choose to stick with the classic beans and rice or venture into the world of elote, avocado salad, salsa verde, nopales, or escabeche, there are plenty of traditional Mexican sides to enhance your tamale experience. Each bite will be a celebration of the vibrant flavors and rich culinary heritage of Mexico.

Modern Twists on Tamale Accompaniments

Fusion Cuisine Ideas for Tamales

If you’re looking for a creative twist on tamale accompaniments, consider incorporating elements from other cuisines. For example, you can serve tamales with a side of pineapple salsa, adding a tropical and tangy element that pairs well with the masa dough. The sweet and juicy pineapple combined with spicy jalapenos and fresh cilantro can create a unique flavor experience.

Another fusion cuisine idea is to pair tamales with a side of kimchi. The spicy and fermented flavors of the kimchi can provide a contrast to the rich and savory tamales, creating a bold and unexpected combination.

Healthy Sides for Tamales

If you’re looking for healthier options to pair with tamales, consider serving them with a side of grilled or steamed vegetables. Asparagus, broccoli, or Brussels sprouts can be lightly seasoned with olive oil, salt, and pepper to create a nutritious and flavorful side dish. Alternatively, a quinoa salad with fresh herbs and vegetables can provide a protein-rich option that complements the tamales.

Roasted sweet potatoes can also be a great choice as they add a natural sweetness and a satisfying texture. You can season them with spices like paprika and cayenne for an added kick.

Beverage Pairings for Tamales

Non-Alcoholic Drinks to Serve with Tamales

When it comes to non-alcoholic beverages, there are several options that can complement the flavors of tamales. A refreshing glass of horchata, a traditional Mexican rice milk drink flavored with cinnamon and vanilla, can provide a creamy and lightly sweet accompaniment. Another popular choice is agua fresca, a refreshing fruit-infused water. Flavors such as watermelon, hibiscus, or pineapple can add a burst of fruity goodness to your meal.

Alcoholic Beverages to Complement Tamales

For those who prefer alcoholic beverages, there are many options to choose from. A light and crisp Mexican lager can be a great choice to balance the richness of the tamales. Alternatively, a margarita made with fresh lime juice and tequila can provide a tangy and flavorful companion to the meal.

If you prefer wine, a fruity and well-balanced red wine, such as a Malbec or a Tempranillo, can complement the flavors of the tamales nicely. The tannins and acidity in the wine can cut through the richness of the dish, creating a harmonious pairing.

In Conclusion

When it comes to serving tamales, the possibilities for side dishes are truly endless. Whether you choose traditional Mexican sides, modern twists, or fusion cuisine ideas, the key is to find flavors and textures that complement the tamales and enhance your dining experience. So go ahead and get creative with your choices, and enjoy the delicious combination of tamales and the perfect side dishes!

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